Afghans free journalist who took execution pics
By NAHAL TOOSI
Fri Jul 18, 7:15 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan journalist who contributes to The Associated Press was freed Friday after his pictures and video footage of two women brazenly executed by the Taliban led intelligence officials to hold him for questioning for two days.
Rahmatullah Naikzad confirmed that authorities had released him, saying he was “fine,” and that he’d been let go in time to attend a family funeral.
Naikzad’s pictures and footage of the slain women in central Ghazni province, a few hours outside of the capital, were aired internationally and in Afghanistan, prompting widespread anger in Afghanistan over the killings.
President Hamid Karzai personally condemned the crime and, on Wednesday, Afghan intelligence authorities requested Naikzad visit their offices in Ghazni and answer questions about what he knew about the killings.
Prior to covering the executions of the women, whom the Taliban accused of working as prostitutes on a U.S. base in Ghazni city, Naikzad said the Taliban contacted him and asked him to attend the trial of a man and several women accused of various crimes. He said he did not know if the Saturday, July 12, trial would result in an execution.
Naikzad’s pictures included one of the two burqa-clad women sitting next to each other a few minutes before their executions. Another photo showed their bodies the following morning, when Naikzad returned to the scene.
His video footage and photos did not show the actual execution, but the audio track did record the women’s screams. He told the AP that the Taliban would not allow him to record images of the killings.
Naikzad, a native of the town of Ghazni in the Afghan province of the same name, has worked for AP Television News and AP Photos since July 2007. He also works with a local radio station and is known to government officials in the region, including Kazim Allayar, the deputy governor of Ghazni, who described Naikzad as a good person.
In Afghanistan, it is common for journalists from both local and foreign news organizations to communicate with Taliban. Spokesmen for the hardline militia frequently issue statements and can be reached by phone, text message and e-mail. On occasion, elements of the Taliban also communicate directly with local government officials.
Militants hold sway in sizeable tracts of the country, particularly in the south and east. Much of Ghazni also has come under Taliban control.
In addition to being an armed militia, the Taliban increasingly seek to impose harsh dictates through an application of what they consider to be Shariah law in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan they control.
Their use of punishments such as summary executions hark back to the time when they controlled all of the country before being routed by combined U.S.-Afghan forces in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.